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Iodine deficiency: at the root of all diseases?

Everything you need to know about the “missing mineral” that could restore your health

There's a popular saying in the medical community: “If you hear hoofbeats, don’t look for zebras.” This catchphrase favoured by doctors has been passed down from generation to generation, after the wisdom was first shared in the late 1940s by Dr Theodore Woodward, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, when he said, “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras.”

Iodine deficiency

This clever saying that has taken on a life of its own simply means that, sometimes, the most obvious answer is staring you right in the face. Sometimes, when you are looking at even the most serious health problem, the solution is quite simple.

Another quote that has been widely circulated in online health communities, and that many attribute to two-time Nobel Laureate Dr Linus Pauling, says, “You can trace every sickness, every disease and every ailment to a mineral deficiency.”

Circling back to the hoofbeats Dr Woodward spoke of, Dr Pauling’s quote makes perfect sense. It is entirely possible that many of the common ailments and more complicated diseases that continue to plague our modern society have a straightforward solution. Addressing the root cause of these health problems – by correcting an underlying deficiency – could quite possibly transform health and prevent disease.


Iodine is a critical mineral in the body that is often overlooked. There are a few things we know about this essential trace element that can be found naturally in the fertile soil. Iodine is most often associated with the thyroid: roughly 60 percent of iodine in the body can be found in the thyroid gland. We also know that the body can’t produce iodine on its own and must get it from outside sources. This may be one prime explanation as to why thyroid disorders and diseases are on the rise.

According to 2011 research published in the British Medical Bulletin, “Thyroid disorders are prevalent and their manifestations are determined by the dietary iodine availability.”1 After screening large population samples from the US and Europe, researchers went on to say that the most common cause of all thyroid disorders around the world was iodine deficiency, which can lead to hypothyroidism and goitre. In areas of the world with severe deficiency, most thyroid disorders develop into autoimmune disease.

Like hoofbeats heard in the far distance, the first signs of iodine deficiency can be subtle and easy to miss. If you are not getting enough organic iodine in a form that your body can use, you may start to experience brain fog, brittle nails, cold hands or feet, constipation, depression and anxiety, difficulty swallowing, dry skin, fatigue, hair loss, high cholesterol, susceptibility to colds and flus, insomnia, low libido, lowered immunity, muscle pain and so much more.

Let these short-term symptoms go unchecked, and the hoofbeats will grow louder. Long-term repercussions of iodine deficiency may include cretinism and a higher infant mortality risk, related to deficiency during pregnancy; foetal hypothyroidism that can cause brain damage; learning disabilities, developmental delays, or mental retardation in children; a higher risk of breast cancer and fibrocystic breast disease; hypothyroidism; general iodine deficiency disorders; and slowed cognitive function for people of all ages.

The frightening reality of iodine deficiency is precisely why doctors push so hard for women to up their intake of the mineral during pregnancy. In 2015, Austrian researchers discovered that, while it is common for some pregnant women to suffer from iodine deficiency, even low levels of this critical mineral should be taken seriously. Iodine deficiency could negatively impact the development of an unborn baby’s brain, confirming that women do need to take higher quantities of iodine during conception and pregnancy.2 Children who did not receive enough iodine in utero have scored worse on literacy tests than their peers.

These findings come on the heels of the “re-emergence” of moderate iodine deficiency in developed countries, discovered by George Washington University researchers in 2013. Because of the compounding research that supports these claims, scientists called for better public health policies to be put in place to address the now widespread iodine deficiency in the US, the UK and other developed nations.3,4

Iodine deficiency among babies and children can be damaging to mental development, and iodine deficiency that continues into adulthood can have grave consequences too. For women, iodine deficiency has been linked to breast cancer – women in Japan who eat large amounts of seaweed, a natural source of iodine, have dramatically lower breast cancer rates. Researchers also discovered that breast iodine tissue levels were lower in breast cancer patients compared to women with healthy breast tissue or benign tumours.5 Iodine deficiency may contribute to the development of gastric cancer and heart disease, while increasing iodine levels could provide some protection against prostate cancer in men. 6, 7, 8

Even mild iodine deficiency that can affect the function of the thyroid may be particularly dangerous. In a 2016 study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting, researchers associated having too little thyroid hormone in the blood – including readings within the “low-normal” range – with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes among prediabetics. The study, conducted on 8,452 people, found that diabetes risk increased by up to 40 percent for those with reduced thyroid function and prediabetes.9

Finally, in 2015, the American Thyroid Association made a big push on behalf of public health, recommending that a daily serving of iodine be added to multivitamin supplements for pregnant and lactating women. Because of these efforts, the US Council for Responsible Nutrition put new guidelines in place, encouraging manufacturers to add 150 μg of iodine to all prenatal supplements.10

Public health officials and nutritional organisations are working hard to correct this dangerous underlying deficiency, and yet, the problem remains. It’s not for lack of trying. So many of us are iodine deficient, struggling with chronic symptoms and related disease, because of two common pieces of misinformation circulated in the medical community.


When you’re looking at the root cause of iodine deficiency, think horses, not zebras. Though top government officials have long been consulting with physicians and racking their brains in the hopes of getting to the bottom of this global iodine freefall, they appear to be missing the simple answer right in front of their noses. There are two main reasons why up to 40 percent of the Western world still suffers from iodine deficiency – both with a straightforward, easy fix.

1. Poor diet

Since the human body does not produce the critical mineral iodine on its own, the daily iodine we need must come from an outside source, like food. In a perfect world, eating fresh, whole foods straight from the earth, rich in vitamins and minerals, should be enough to correct any underlying nutritional deficiencies.

But sadly, the world we are living in is far from perfect. Mineral depletion has been robbing our food supply of vital nutrients like iodine for decades. When University of Texas at Austin researchers examined the nutritional data from 43 different types of fruits and vegetables from 1950 to 1999, they discovered “reliable declines” in a wide variety of the nutrients tested.11 We could argue that, even when eating the healthiest diet, the daily iodine that you get from food may not be enough.

Unfortunately, we already know that most of us aren’t eating really healthy foods each day. Even the introduction of iodised table salt, or processed “junk salt,” has been no help since it contains potassium iodide, known to cause thyroid and liver toxicity in high doses. The Western Un- Natural Food Diet that we have all grown so accustomed to – made up of processed foods that include starchy carbohydrates and sweets at each meal – robs us of vital nutrients and disrupts the healthy digestive process. A processed food diet must be avoided and the gut must be replenished with probiotics that can metabolise nutrients if there will be any hope of iodine being utilised by the body at all.

2. Selenium deficiency

There’s one more thing you need to know about iodine before you can consider how to get your daily needs met. Iodine only works with the help of its co-factor selenium – another important mineral found in the soil, as well as in water and some foods.

Decades ago, when researchers examined those suffering from selenium deficiency in northern Zaire, what was already considered to be one of the most iodine-deficient regions in the world with a predominance of cretinism, they found selenium to be an “important co-factor” that “plays a definite role in thyroid hormone metabolism in humans.”12 In addition to regulating metabolism in the body, selenium can also protect against free radical damage as an antioxidant. But just like iodine, the body does not naturally produce selenium on its own. And just like iodine and other critical minerals, our food supply may be sorely lacking in the ample amounts of selenium needed to correct deficiency and balance iodine levels in the body. A selenium deficiency may be one of the biggest “hidden” reasons for our global iodine epidemic that continues on without an end in sight.


Whether you have been struggling for months or years, an iodine deficiency is never a lost cause. Taking the right form of iodine, along with its critical co-factor selenium, has the potential to minimise most symptoms of iodine deficiency – if not reverse them completely. It’s entirely possible that some unexplainable symptoms, like digestive problems, cold hands and feet, mental health issues, sleep disturbances, swelling and muscle pain, may seem to disappear completely. For other diseases triggered by iodine deficiency that may have already damaged the body, a daily iodine supplement can balance the thyroid and put the body back on the road to recovery.

This brings us to the most important question of all: what kind and how much iodine does the body need each day? Nascent iodine is the consumable, organic form of iodine so many of us have been looking for. Nascent iodine is in its atomic form, as opposed to its molecular form; the iodine atoms in nascent iodine have an incomplete number of electrons so that they hold an electromagnetic charge.

What this simply means is that, when you take this type of iodine, your body will recognise it right away as an old friend. When consumed as a liquid supplement, nascent iodine will immediately be given the “OK” by the thyroid and quickly absorbed into the body. Nascent iodine, because of its charged state, also creates a huge release of energy when it is diluted with water and consumed. The iodine atoms will gradually lose their energy charge two to three hours after taking the supplement. For this reason, some of the primary benefits of nascent iodine include maintaining normal thyroid and immune function, improving energy levels, aiding in detoxification and supporting healthy metabolism.

Now to the second part of the question: how much iodine does your body need each day? To see maximum benefit, adults can take five drops of nascent iodine in 20ml of water, swished in the mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing, three times each day: morning, noon and afternoon. Children over 12 can take half the standard adult dose of nascent iodine, at two to three drops, two to three times per day. Children under 12 can take half of that dose again, at one to two drops, two to three times per day. Remember, nascent iodine must always be consumed with a selenium supplement in order for it to be activated in the body.

After all these years, Dr Woodward was right. When it comes to a modern crisis like iodine deficiency, we don’t have to waste our time looking for the zebras, like the introduction of iodised table salt that caused more harm than good. We only need to stick to the basics – by taking a daily form of iodine that the body can use – to “cure” what ails us.



Nascent Iodine

One drop = 4oomcg of iodine. Frequent small doses are more effective than larger amounts at less frequent intervals. Nascent Iodine is the best form of iodine supplementation


Delivers 300mcg Ionic Selenium per serving. The best way to supplement with Selenium and the most recognised by the body. 48 servings per bottle. Gluten- free, suitable for vegans. Selenium and iodine are the “perfect pair.”

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2. Lindorfer, H., Krebs, M., Kautzky-Willer, A., Bancher-Todesca, D., Sager, M. and Gessl, A. 2014. Iodine deficiency in pregnant women in Austria. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, DOI: 10.1038/ ejcn.2014.253.
3. Stagnaro-Green, A. and Pearce E. N. 2013. Iodine and pregnancy: a call to action. The Lancet, DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60717-5.
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9. Sood, M., M.D., director, inpatient diabetes, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Endocrine Society, news release, April 3, 2016.
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